Apart from Italian fascism and German National-Socialism – the most famous fascisms of the interwar era – considerable research has been conducted during the past two decades about generic fascism: fascist groups, movements, and parties in other countries. In Israel, while the Revisionist Zionist movement has been continually accused by its political rivals of being fascist, these accusations have not yet been examined according to any comparative model of fascism. Relying on Robert Paxton's model of generic fascism, this article examines how one of its components – the drive for closer integration of the national community – was manifested in the writings of seven Revisionist activists in mandatory Palestine: Itamar Ben Avi, Abba Aḥime'ir, U. Z. Grünberg, Joshua Yevin, Wolfgang von Weisl, Zvi Kolitz, and Abraham Stern. Their writings between the years 1922 and 1942 reveal a strong drive for social integration, similar to that manifest in other fascist movements of the interwar era.
This article is based on my Ph.D. project ‘Hebrew fascsim in Palestine, 1922–1942’, supervised by Prof. Carlo Moos and Prof. Moshe Zimmermann. The project was generously supported by the Salomon David Steinberg Foundation and by the Forschungskredit of the University of Zurich. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful commentary and suggestions, and Marilyn Bar-Or and Netta-Li Hamiel for their help in preparing the English version of this article.
1 Ḥayim Vardi, ‘Victory of the fascists’, Do'ar ha-Yom, 12 Nov. 1922. All quotations in this article originally in languages other than English were translated by the author.
3 A lively description of Palestine at the time is that of Segev, Tom, One Palestine, complete: Jews and Arabs under the British mandate (London, 2001). A classic review of Zionist politics – both in Palestine and abroad – is Laqueur, Walter's History of Zionism (New York, NY, 2003). Shavit, Yaacov's Jabotinsky and the Revisionist movement, 1925–1948 (London, 1988) gives a good – yet not always positive – introduction to that movement. A more recent research of Revisionist Zionism is Kaplan, Eran's The Jewish radical right: Revisionist Zionism and its ideological legacy (Madison, WI, 2005); Kaplan, however, does not consider any part of the Revisionist movement as fascist. Shindler, Colin sheds light on some aspects of the movement in The triumph of military Zionism: nationalism and the origins of the Israeli right (London, 2006), while Shelef, Nadav portrays the ideological changes through which it went in his book Evolving nationalism: homeland, identity and religion in Israel, 1925–2005 (Ithaca, NY, 2010).
4 For a basic review of the literature discussing whether the interwar Hebrew right wing was fascist or not, see Tamir, Dan, ‘Some thoughts about Hebrew fascism in interwar Palestine’, Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, 63 (2011), pp. 364–81.
5 Ze'ev Vladimir Jabotinsky (Odessa, 1880 – New York, 1940) was a lawyer, a journalist, a writer, a poet, a Zionist activist, and a statesman. Disappointment with what he conceived as passivity of the established Zionist Executive led him to distance himself from Zionist mainstream, becoming the founding figure of the Zionist, Hebrew, and Israeli right wing. In 1925, he established the Revisionist Zionist movement, which took its name from his call to revise Zionist policies in a more active direction. Jabotinsky's first comprehensive biography is probably Schechtman, Joseph B., Rebel and statesman: the Vladimir Jabotinsky story (New York, NY, 1956). A more recent one – originally published in Hebrew in 1993 – is Katz, Shmuel, Lone wolf: a biography of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky (New York, NY, 1996).
6 A clear example thereof is Avineri, Shlomo's chapter about Jabotinsky in his book The making of modern Zionism (New York, NY, 1981).
7 Ben-Hur, Raphaella Bilski, Every individual is a king: the social and political thought of Zeev Vladimir Jabotinsky (Washington, DC, 1993). For a brief account of Jabotinsky's sympathy or lack of sympathy towards fascism, see Shindler, Triumph of military Zionism, pp. 12–14.
8 Linz, Juan J., ‘Some notes toward a comparative study of fascism in sociological historical perspective’, in Laqueur, Walter, ed., Fascism: a reader's guide (Berkeley, CA, 1978), p. 12.
9 Gentile, Emilio, ‘Fascism, totalitarianism and political religion: definitions and critical reflections on criticism of an interpretation’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 5 (2004), pp. 326–75. See his reference there to many other scholars as well.
10 Griffin, Roger, ‘Studying fascism in a postfascist age: from new consensus to a new wave?’, Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies, 1 (2012), pp. 1–17. See also his earlier definitions in Griffin, , ‘The primacy of culture: the current growth (or manufacture) of consensus within fascist studies’, Journal of Contemporary History, 37 (2002), pp. 21–43.
11 Eatwell, Roger, ‘New styles of dictatorship and leadership in interwar Europe’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 7 (2006), pp. 127–37.
12 For further comprehensive reviews of the concept of generic fascism, see Bauerkämper, Arnd, ‘A new consensus? recent research on fascism in Europe, 1918–1945’, History Compass, 4 (2006), pp. 536–66; Reichardt, Sven, ‘Neue Wege der vergleichenden Faschismusforschung’, Mittelweg 36, 16 (2007), pp. 9–25; and Umland, Andreas, ‘Refining the concept of generic fascism’, European History Quarterly, 39 (2009), pp. 298–309.
13 Paxton, Robert O., The anatomy of fascism (New York, NY, 2004). An earlier version of this model was presented by Paxton, , ‘The five stages of fascism’, Journal of Modern History, 70 (1998), pp. 1–23.
14 Paxton, Anatomy of fascism. Paxton also suggests an evolutionary model of fascism, with five phases: creation of a fascist movement; its taking root; acquiring power; exercising power and finally an end phase of either radicalization or decline. Each fascist movement can be examined and assessed according to its progress along this evolutionary line.
15 Ibid., pp. 219–20.
16 The term Israel had several – partially overlapping but never identical – meanings at the time. Aḥime'ir, Yevin, Grünberg, and Von Weisl used it mostly as a synonym for the Jewish people. This was sometimes the case with the term Hebrew as well. In a manner common to many other Zionist writers and politicians, their language was Hebrew, their land Israeli and their people Jewish. This confused mixture was discarded by the younger and more extremist Abraham Stern, who – influenced by the ideas of Jonathan Raoš and Adolf Gurevicz – sought a clear cut between diaspora Jews and local autochtonic indigenous Hebrews.
17 Moshe Joseph Glücksohn (1878–1939) was chief editor of Ha-'Aretz at that time. ‘M.B.’ probably refers to Moshe Beilinsohn (1889–1936), one of the senior journalists and editors of the socialist daily newspaper Davar.
18 Abba Aḥime'ir, ‘On the issue of the visa for Jabotinsky (from the notebook of a fascist)’, Do'ar ha-Yom, 21 Sept. 1928.
19 The details in Aḥime'ir's biography are taken from his papers at the Jabotinsky Archive (JA), P-5/1/1.
20 Aḥime'ir continued to use his old family name occasionally, in official matters, until his return to Palestine in 1924.
21 Aba Gaissinowitsch, ‘Bemerkungen zu Spenglers Auffassung Russlands: Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung der philosophischen Doktorwürde vorgelegt der philosophischen Fakultät der Wiener Universität’ (D.Phil. thesis, Vienna, 1924). A copy of the dissertation is kept at ‘Beyt Abba’, the archive of the family, in Ramat Gan.
22 Aḥime'ir, ‘On the issue of the visa for Jabotinsky’.
25 Ben-Avi, Itamar, In the dawn of our independence: memoirs of the first Hebrew child (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 6 ff [in Hebrew].
26 Although his memoirs should be taken with a grain of salt, it is not improbable that Ben Avi indeed met Mustafa Kemal when the latter was stationed as an Ottoman officer in Jerusalem. In his autobiography, Ben Avi tries to show how great minds think alike, hinting that it was his idea to write Hebrew in Latin letters which inspired the Ottoman officer to do the same in Turkey about fifteen years later. For a lively description of this Araq-saturated conversation, see ibid., pp. 213–18.
27 Ben Avi, In the dawn, pp. 500–4. Ben Avi died after a severe heart attack in 1943.
28 On that event and the general animosity between Hebrew nationalists and Yiddish-speaking groups, see Shavit, Zohar, ‘Tel Avivian, speak Hebrew!: the partial success of the Hebrew revolution’, Panim, 45 (2008), pp. 50–65 [in Hebrew].
29 Ben Avi, ‘The war among brothers in Tel Aviv’, Do'ar ha-Yom, 8 Oct. 1928.
30 Aḥime'ir to the Federation of the Hebrew Workers in Palestine, 2 June 1931, Tel Aviv, JA, P-5/1/3.
33 Wolfgang Von Weisl, ‘The agreed-upon lies of the National Committee’, Ha-`Am, 25 Mar. 1931. During the First World War, Von Weisl (Vienna, 1896 – Gedera, 1974) served as an artillery officer on the Russian and Italian fronts. A physician by profession, he arrived in Palestine in 1922; in 1925, he joined Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and became one of the founders of the Revisionist movement.
34 Editorial, ‘The Siren and The World’, Ha-`Am, 31 Mar. 1931.
35 Ibid., p. 77. Great Russell Street in London was the address of the offices of the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Organization, and a general code for the official Zionist policy. The same day, a headline on the front page announced that ‘Hitler wins in Austria too: 64 NS representatives elected at state elections in Salzburg’. Another item, titled ‘Dictatorship for the sake of parliamentarianism’, reported that Germany entered a ‘state of siege’, after the German government issued a decree aimed at ‘opposing hooliganism’, in response to ‘the recent clashes between the “National Socialists” and the Communists’. Ha-`Am (which later became Ḥazit ha-`Am) kept its relatively balanced tone in reports about Nazi activities in Germany, at least until 1933.
36 Aḥime'ir, ‘Around Beaconsfield’, Ha-`Am, 19 Apr. 1931.
37 Brit ha-Biryonim, ‘We shall talk with you frankly’, Ha-Biryon, 5 (Apr. 1931). An original is kept at the Central Zionist Archive (CZA), PR-3693. See also Aḥime'ir, Joseph and Shatzky, Shmuel, eds., Brit ha-Biryonim: the first anti-British organisation: documents and evidences (Tel Aviv, 1978), pp. 40ff [in Hebrew].
38 Brit ha-Biryonim, ‘Jews! Zionists!’, Ha-Biryon 5 (Apr. 1931).
39 An advertisement in Ha-`Am, 30 Apr. 1931. The Sheqel was the membership fee, which gave its owner the right to vote in the elections for the Zionist Organization's assembly.
40 ‘Shaul Tschernichowski: poet of Israeli renaissance’ [no author], Ha-`Am, 19 May 1931.
41 Aḥime'ir and Shatzky, eds., Brit ha-Biryonim, p. 40.
42 Joshua Yevin, ‘The day of judgment’, Ha-`Am, 25 May 1931.
43 The People's Soldier [in Hebrew: ‘Ḥayal ha-`Am’; a pseudonym which was used for editorials], ‘The elections to the congress: victory of the Revisionists’, Ha-`Am, 27–8 May 1931 (emphasis in the original). These editorials were usually written by Von Weisl, Yevin and Aḥime'ir. ‘Mizraḥi’ was a party of religious Zionists; for the recent analysis of the political history of this party, see Shelef, Evolving nationalism, chs. 2 and 4.
44 Laqueur, History of Zionism, pp. 251–2.
45 People's Soldier, ‘The elections to the congress’. Mapay was the main socialist Zionist party at that time.
46 Von Weisl, ‘Interview with Ṣidqi Paša’, Ha-`Am, 3–5 June 1931.
47 Message (in the broadsheet format of the front page), 16 June 1931.
48 The People's Diary [editorial], ‘Ha-`Am is again in print’, Ha-`Am, 2 July 1931. The ‘red’ newspaper was Davar, Mapay's official daily; the ‘gray’ is Ha-'Aretz, the liberal newspaper which was seen as affiliated to the General Zionist party; the ‘yellow’ was Do'ar ha-Yom, Itamar Ben Avi's private newspaper, which was considered a cheap tabloid, and with which the Revisionists were already embroiled by that time.
49 ‘The full speech of U. Z. Grünberg’, Ha-`Am, 17 July 1931. The 17th Zionist Congress convened in Basel between 30 June and 15 July 1931.
50 Ibid. Uri Zvi Grünberg (1896–1981) was born in Galicia. After serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War, he was living in Warsaw and Berlin. By the time of his migration to Palestine in 1923, he was already a known and cherished poet in Hebrew and Yiddish. Like Aḥime'ir, he soon left the socialist circles with which he was affiliated and joined Jabotinsky's Revisionist Zionism. See Aḥime'ir and Shatzky, eds., Brit ha-Biryonim, p. 33.
51 Aḥimeir, ‘The aims of Revisionist Zionism’, Ha-`Am, 5 Aug. 1931.
52 Ibid. The term ‘nation’ was used by the Revisionists in a confusing way, at times referring to Jews, and at times to the Hebrew community in Palestine. This double meaning – evident until today in Israeli politics – was cut only about a decade later, by members of the NMO in Israel and their ideological affiliates; see the following discussion about Abraham Stern and his distinction between ‘Jews’ and ‘Hebrews’.
53 The debate within the Revisionist movement in favour of the secession and against it made a whole distinct episode. One should note, however, that Jabotinsky, as the leader of the Revisionist party, continuously and consistently denied the possibility of taking the power by force or using any violent methods within the Zionist organization. Jabotinsky made it clear a few weeks later in his article ‘Independence or extinction’, Migdalor [‘Lighthouse’ in Hebrew], 11 Sept. 1931. This double refusal – both to compromise and to use violent methods in order to take over the Zionist organization – was probably an important factor in his decision to secede.
54 ‘The adventures of the Revisionist newspaper in Palestine’ [no author], Migdalor, 11 Sept. 1931.
55 ‘Following the troubles at the college: anger in Tel Aviv regarding the scandal on Mount Traitors’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 16 Feb. 1932. However, although Magnes was one of the authors of Brit Shalom's political programme and a strong supporter of its activity, he did not become an official member of the group. See Bentwich, Norman, For Zion's sake: a biography of Judah L. Magnes, first chancellor and first president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Philadelphia, PA, 1954), p. 185.
56 Abba Siqra’ [pseudonym of Aḥime'ir], ‘Bentwich the assimilationist – and the missionary’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 19 Feb. 1932.
57 Ibid. The article specifically criticizes Smilansky, the editor of Bustenay, the farmers' association's journal.
58 Joshua Yevin, ‘Be awake!’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 23 Feb. 1932 (my emphasis). Yevin used the German word ‘Stab’ – meaning a crew, or a team working together – in the original Hebrew article.
59 Ibid. The term ‘Hebron's murderers’ refers to the leaders of the Arab community in Palestine, held responsible for the August 1929 riots. On 23 August 1929, a series of demonstrations and small clashes between Jewish and Muslim believers in Jerusalem lead to a short yet deadly wave of riots, murders, and – as happened in the city of Hebron – massacres. Within a week, 240 people were killed and about 570 were reported injured. See Segev, One Palestine, complete, pp. 327ff. For a recent assessment of the wider social context of the riots, see Wilson, Timothy, ‘Turbulent stasis: comparative reflections upon intercommunal violence and territoriality in the Israel/Palestine conflict’, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 19 (2013), pp. 58–79.
60 Yevin, ‘Be awake!’. Yevin paraphrases on Deuteronomy 23, 9–14.
61 ‘How did they once fight against the Sanbalats of culture?’ [editorial], Ḥazit ha-`Am, 15 Mar. 1932 (my emphasis).
62 The article quoted the socialist press of 1913–14, demonstrating how the socialist parties were vehemently opposed to the initiative to institute German as the official teaching language at the Polytechnic School in Haifa, arguing that the same could be said in 1932 against Magnes and Bentwich in Jerusalem. About the ‘war of languages’ of 1913–1914 see Saposnik, Arieh Bruce, Becoming Hebrew: the creation of a Jewish national culture in Ottoman Palestine (Oxford, 2008), ch. 10. For the wider context within Hebrew education, see Spolsky, Bernard and Shohamy, Elana, ‘Language in Israeli society and education’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 137 (1999), pp. 93–114.
63 ‘How did they once fight against the Sanbalats of culture?’ [editorial] (my emphasis).
64 Yevin, ‘We fight the people's war’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 29 July 1932. The article was aimed against liberal and socialist Zionist leaders. Specifically, Yevin mentions Robert Weltsch and Kurt Blumenfeld. Weltsch (1891–1982) was chief editor of the Jüdische Rundschau in Berlin; Blumenfeld (1884–1963) was at the time head of the Zionist Union of Germany.
65 Aḥime'ir, ‘The speech of Aḥime'ir’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 13 Sept. 1932.
66 Kolitz, Zvi, Mussolini: his personality and doctrine (Tel Aviv, 1936), p. 6.
68 During the division of the NMO, Kolitz did not follow Abraham Stern, but rather went with David Razi'el and joined the British army during the Second World War. After the war, Kolitz migrated to North America and made a successful career as a film and theatre producer. He died in America in 2002.
69 Kolitz, Mussolini, p. 19.
70 Ibid., p. 65 (emphasis in the original).
71 Ibid., p. 67 (emphasis in the original).
72 Shalom Rosenfeld, ‘Mussolini – with the publication of the book by Zvi Kolitz’, Ha-Yarden, 20 Nov. 1936. Ha-Yarden was the Revisionist movement's newspaper after Ḥazit ha-`Am was closed by an order of the British government.
73 Abraham ‘Yair’ Stern (1907–42) was the founder and the leader of the National Military Organization in Israel, a group of NMO activists who refused to comply with the organization's ceasefire with the British rulers with the outbreak of the Second World War. Stern's group preferred to continue its struggle against the British. For two years, the organization carried out underground attacks against British targets, until Stern was located, arrested, and murdered by the police. A worshipping biography of Stern, full of admiration and rich in details, is Eldad, Israel's ‘The poem of his life’, a preface to Stern's collected poems and letters In my blood, forever live! Poems, articles, letters (Tel Aviv, 2002) [in Hebrew]. Eldad was one of Stern's disciples, and one of his group's commanders after his assassination. A longer biography, still positive though to a lesser degree of enthusiasm, was written by Yevin, Ada Amichal, In purple: the life of Yair – Abraham Stern (Tel Aviv, 1986) [in Hebrew]. A less enchanted tale of Stern's life can be found in Heller, Joseph, The Stern gang: ideology, politics and terror, 1940–1949 (London, 1995), passim.
74 Abraham Stern, draft in his notebook, probably written during 1940 or 1941. CZA, A 549\65\44.
75 Grundlage des Vorschlages der Nationalen Militärischen Organisation in Palästina (Irgun Zewai Leumi) betreffend der Lösung der jüdischen Frage Europas und der aktiven Teilnahme der N.M. O. Am Kriege an der Seite Deutschlands, JA, K-5/4/1.
76 Ibid. Originally in German ‘israelitischen’.
77 Stern, draft in his notebook, CZA, A 549\65\44.
78 Idem, CZA, A 549\65\75.
79 Idem, CZA, A 549\65\44.
80 Idem, CZA ,A 549\65\83. Next to this sentence, however, Stern writes that full unity will not exist, due to ‘polarity of the people’, admitting that different opinions may remain.
81 Idem, CZA, A 549\65\55 (my emphasis).
82 Originally in German, Interessengemeinschaft.
83 Originally in German, völkisch-nationalen Hebräertum.
84 Grundlage des Vorschlages der Nationalen Militärischen Organisation in Palästina, JA, K-5/4/1. In ‘NMO’ Stern referred here to the NMO in Israel, not to the bigger organization, from which he detached himself.
85 Jabotinsky, ‘Israel and Carthage’, Ḥazit ha-`Am, 5 Feb. 1932. Jabotinsky did not mention Gurevicz by name, but by the pseudonym ‘Al-Raed’ [in Arabic: ‘The Scout’] which Gurevicz used for his articles in Razsavjet.
86 On the relations between Stern, Gurevicz, and Halperin see Shavit, Yaacov, The new Hebrew nation: a study in Israeli heresy and fantasy (London, 1987), pp. 23–36, 53–7.
87 Beliac, G. [Gurevicz, Adolf], ‘Peuple sans terre – terre sans peuple’, in Shem: revue d'action Hébraïque (Paris, 1938).
88 Ibid., p. 22.
89 Ibid., p. 3.
90 Ibid., p. 4.
91 Ibid., p. 10.
92 Ibid., p. 5.
93 Ibid., p. 20.
94 These two aspects cohabited later among ‘Israel's Liberty's Fighters’, the organization established by Stern's followers after his murder, under Nathan Yellin-Mor and Israel Eldad. See Heller, Stern Gang, pp. 111–22.
95 See n. 59 above. Following the riots, the British government appointed a commission – known as the ‘Hope–Simpson Commission’ – whose task was to investigate the causes of the violent eruption. The investigation's result was the publication of a new statement of policy, issued on 20 Oct. 1930, by the colonial secretary Sidney Webb, Lord Passfield – a statement soon named after him. Suggesting limitations on Jewish immigration to Palestine, this paper was viewed by Zionists as a fundamental change in the former British official political guidelines, known as ‘The Churchill White Paper’ of 1922.
96 For a detailed analysis of Revisionist and Maximalist perceptions of the political role of leaders and leadership, see Tamir, Dan, ‘“Dictate more, for we should obey your orders!”: cult of the leader in interwar Hebrew fascism’, Politics, Religion and Ideology, 14 (2013), pp. 449–67.
97 Gershoni, Israel, Egypt and fascism, 1922–1937 (Tel Aviv, 1999), pp. 11–14 [in Hebrew].
98 Ibid., pp. 336–49. In English, see Gershoni, Israel and Jankowski, James, Confronting fascism in Egypt: dictatorship and democracy in the 1930s (Stanford, CA, 2010).
99 A good general review of the various reactions towards fascism in Lebanon and Syria during the 1930s is Nordbruch, Götz, Nazism in Syria and Lebanon: the ambivalence of the German option, 1933–1945 (Abingdon, 2009).
100 Love, Gary, ‘“What's the big idea?”: Oswald Mosley, the British Union of Fascists and generic fascism’, Journal of Contemporary History, 42 (2007), pp. 447–68.
101 Foray, Jennifer, ‘An old empire in a new order: the global designs of the Dutch Nazi Party, 1931–1942’, European History Quarterly, 43 (2013), pp. 27–52.
102 de Rivera, José Antonio Primo, ‘Discurso pronunciado en el Teatro de la Comedia de Madrid’, in Antonio, Joséde Rivera, Primo, Textos de doctrina política (Madrid, 1971), pp. 61–9, quoted and translated into English in Box, Zira and Saz, Ismael, ‘Spanish fascism as a political religion (1931–1941)’, Politics, Religion and Ideology, 12 (2011), pp. 371–89.
104 In August 1931, Aḥimeir claimed that a ‘synthesis was created between class and nation, a national revolutionary movement and a proletarian revolutionary movement’. Aḥimeir, ‘Aims of Revisionist Zionism’; see n. 51 above.
105 Bey, Essad and von Weisl, Wolfgang, Allah ist Gross: Niedergang und Aufstieg der islamischen Welt von Abdul Hamid bis Ibn Saud (Vienna, 1935), p. 346.
106 Stern, draft in his notebook, probably written during 1941. CZA, A 549\65\55.
107 A recent review of Raoš and his ‘Canaanite’ worldview can be found in Hofmann, Klaus, ‘Canaanism’, Middle Eastern Studies, 47 (2011), pp. 273–94.
108 Ibid. See also Evron, Boas, Jewish State or Israeli Nation? (Bloomington, IN, 1995), pp. 205–22.
* This article is based on my Ph.D. project ‘Hebrew fascsim in Palestine, 1922–1942’, supervised by Prof. Carlo Moos and Prof. Moshe Zimmermann. The project was generously supported by the Salomon David Steinberg Foundation and by the Forschungskredit of the University of Zurich. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful commentary and suggestions, and Marilyn Bar-Or and Netta-Li Hamiel for their help in preparing the English version of this article.
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